Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 hours – Lessons Learned & Recommendations

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  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 03:07am

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    Dogs_In_A_Pile

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    Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 hours – Lessons Learned & Recommendations

Okay folks – today we finished our 9 family, 8600 pound food storage day.

Here’s a link back to the planning meeting thread outlining where we were back in May.  Lots of good info, questions and answers from other forum members.

https://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/food-storage-lessons-learned-and-recomendations/19518

Here is a detailed description of what we did today with lessons learned and observations.

Preparations/Set-up:

One of our participant families graciously offered the use of their family owned business for staging.  This is almost a must since you will need a lot of space for set up.  There was a warehouse we could have used in case of rain – we were fortunate to have perfect weather – mid 70s, humidity in the 40% range.  We actually had to move the bag sealers in out of the sun at one point.  Make arrangements for the ability to do this in a covered area in case of rain, like I said, we were lucky.

We had a master spreadsheet that calculated out the number of buckets of what type of grain/bean each family wanted to order.  We built the spreadsheet to also calculate the number of buckets, lids, mylar bags, O2 absorbers and desiccant packs each family needed to order.  We had to order more absorbers, desiccant packs and mylar bags than the number of buckets because of package contents sizes but we just pooled everything together anyway so it didn’t matter.  In this case more is better.

I would recommend that each family order their own buckets, lids and absorbers, etc.  The logistics required to collect money and everyone’s specific order requirements isn’t worth it.  In most cases, shipping was between $30-$50.  We also arranged for a drop shipment to the business address – several members of our group had large enough orders that they were palletized and we needed a forklift to unload them.

Order all of your grain and beans from one place.  What you might save in price you will lose in shipping.  We were fortunate to have a vendor in western Virginia (Yoder’s Country Market in Pratt, VA) that assembled our entire order.  We had to go pick it up since they don’t ship, but one of our group members had a large truck and we got the whole load in one trip.  We price checked with Honeyville Grains and Walton Feed but the shipping was expensive compared to the cost of gas for the trip out and back.

Buckets:  http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/product.asp

You can get either the HDPE Premium or Standard Food Grade 5 gallon buckets.  The Premium is .090″ thick, the Standard is .075″ thick and the dimensions are the same.  Both are FDA approved.  Don’t use LDPE buckets – the interstitial space between the molecules will allow gases to leak into the bucket – not that much of an issue since the contents are in a sealed mylar bag, but could be a problem once the bag was opened and you were using the contents.  

Most of us ordered white buckets – we staged all the buckets and marked each one with a permanent marker with the family name and contents.  Then we staged the buckets in groups by contents  – this made filling easy, more on that later.

One recommendation – consider having each family order a specific color bucket.  This makes for easy identification of who gets what bucket, but it’s not essential.  This would be polishing the cannonball.

O2 Absorbers, Desiccant Packs and Mylar Bags:  http://www.sorbentsystems.com

– Mylar Bags – You can get either 4.3 mil (Part # 20MFS30) or 7.5 mil (Part # P75C2030) bags, but you MUST use food grade bags.  We used 20″ x 30″ bags ordered from Sorbent Systems.  Fold each bag into an ‘S’ shape to stage in the buckets.  See the pictures below.

4.3 mil or 7.5 mil is a personal preference – the 4.3 mil is much easier to work with.  The 7.5 mil bags ended up being the limiting factor as far as how much of each grain or bean you could get in each bag/bucket combo because the bag was much stiffer and didn’t fill out into the edges of the bag as readily as the 4.3 mil.

– Desiccant Packs:  http://www.sorbentsystems.com/order_desiccants.html (P/N 205050PK01)

One or two packs to a bucket depending on what was in each bag.  If the air volume of what is being packaged is 40% or higher, use 2 packs.  A quick way to check is to fill a measuring cup with the “stuff” to check.  Take another measuring cup and add another cup of water.  If you can add a full cup of water to the cup of beans/wheat/rice/whatever, then you have at least 50% air volume and need two desiccant packs.  We used 1 pack per bucket for wheat, oats, rice, Red beans, Black beans, Pinto beans and Great Northern beans as they all had an air volume of 33% or less.  The Navy beans, Kidney beans and Lima beans needed 2 packs.

– O2 Absorbers:  http://www.sorbentsystems.com/order_O2.html  (P/N OAP100020)

Two to a bucket, 1000 cc absorbers recommended.  We used two per bag for everything.

These come in packs of 20 which will do ten buckets.  This is the time critical step so once the absorbers are opened, we put two in each bucket and started sealing.  Order enough to cover the number of buckets you need filled – there will be extras (unless you all have bucket totals in multiples of 10, but they are relatively inexpensive – about $0.48 each so we won’t be wasting too many.  Like I said earlier, we just pooled all of our stuff together.

IMPORTANT STEP:  The desiccant packs and O2 absorbers MUST be physically as far apart as possible or they will interfere with each other.  We put our desiccant packs in the bags before we filled and put the O2 absorbers on top of the grain just before we sealed the bags.

Staging

Empty buckets, with mylar bags, arranged by contents.

Buckets arranged by contents

 

Bucket staging, hard to see the ‘S’ shape we folded the bags into, but you get the idea.

 Loading:

Once everything was staged and we had people at their stations we started filling bags.  At any given time we had 3-5 guys doing the filling.  Use a good scale so each bag gets the correct amount.  As I mentioned above, the 7.5 mil bags were the limiting factor as far as how much grain/bean we could load since the bag didn’t fill out as much as the 4.3 mil bags.  Grab each mylar bag by the edges and shake the contents down to settle it into the bag/bucket as tightly packed as possible.  Use gloves because the 7.5 mil bags will put a nasty slice in your finger if you aren’t careful. 

Here’s is how our bucket loads broke out by contents:

Rice and Wheat – 35 pounds/bucket; Oats – 20 pounds/bucket; Pinto beans – 31 pounds/bucket; Great Northern and Navy beans – 33 pounds/bucket; Kidney, Black and Red beans – 32 pounds/bucket; Lima beans – 30 pounds/bucket; Quinoa – 25 pounds/bucket. 

 

As each bag got filled, we moved them to the sealing area.  We had 14 people total: 3-5 doing the bag/bucket loading, 2 moving full bags from the loading area to the sealing area and 3-4 moving sealed bags/buckets from the sealing area back out to the parking lot where they were rearranged by family.

Sealing

We had two people using clam shell heat sealers.  Don’t use an iron, buy a clamshell sealer.  Trust me.  The 4.3 mil bags took about 5-6 seconds, the 7.5 mil bags took about 10 seconds.  Sealing is the critical step since this is where you add the O2 absorbers.  The O2 absorbers come 20 to a pack so each pack does 10 buckets.  We had one person who was responsible for the O2 absorbers and nothing else.  We would bring 5 buckets out to each sealer, add the absorbers and start sealing.  Seal all but one corner, then fold the bag over getting out as much air as possible before sealing the last couple of inches.  Make sure to seal as close to the top as possible so you have enough bag left over to reseal if necessary.  Another thing to watch for is to make sure no pieces of grain or bean are stuck in the area you are sealing.  Sealing is the slowest part of all of this – you need to have sealers in multiples of two, so you start sealing right away and don’t have O2 absorbers sitting open.  We were pushing sealed bags out at about 20-30 seconds each.  At one point we were doing 70 buckets per hour.  Use gloves, the mylar gets very hot (or so I’m told as I did not burn my right thumb).

Follow-up:  Don’t put the lids on the buckets for at least a day.  Check to make sure you have a good seal.  The O2 absorbers will suck the bags down pretty tight.  By the time we finished, the O2 absorbers in the first batch of buckets we sealed up had sucked the bags down to a near vacuum and they were sealed up tight.  If the bag isn’t snugged down tight after 24 hours, check for a good heat seal.  If the seal looks good, take the bag out fo the bucket and check for a hole.  You will need to transfer the contents to a new bag, replace the O2 absorbers and reseal.

All of these buckets are full and waiting to be moved to the sealers in groups of 10 ( 5 per sealer) for addition of O2 absorbers sealing.

The buckets to the left of the open bay are staged, waiting to be moved into the bay for loading.  The buckets in the bay door are full and staged for sealing.

Going Home Loadout (or just another reason to play with a forklift)

Almost finished….

Odds and Ends:  (Some material repeated)

We started at around 7 AM and were done by noon.  Close to 270 buckets and 8600 pounds of wheat, rice, oats and beans.

Have one or two helicopters – people who can just float from station to station and help when and where needed. 

Bring food, snacks, water, coffee. 

Rotate people in between stations to avoid burnout.

Label the buckets by Family AND Contents for easy auditing.

Stage buckets by contents, fill buckets one item at a time.

Unless you are extremely lucky, you will have extra stuff.  Make sure you have extra buckets, bags, absorbers, desiccant to seal it up.  We just split it up pretty much evenly depending on who wanted what.

Have fun.

 

I’m sure I left something out – if anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to PM or email.

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 09:38am

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    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

A few things Dogs left out. He and I were late… I made a checklist of what to take, I neglected to check on what Dogs was putting in the car before we left. He left our box of bags and O2 absorbers, so halfway to our location we had to turn around to retrieve them.Sealed  So double check that you have everything you need with you before you leave for the day. In our case the facility were using for the food “festival” was 45 to 60 minute drive for most.

The day before the group effort, several members of the community got together at the facility and unloaded the pallets. They also did a test run with a bag of rice.

I walked around with another person and we made sure each bucket was labeled, had a bag and desiccant. Then we moved the buckets into the staging area a little bit at a time. This really didn’t take that long because the bucket fillers were moving very fast.

The sealing took a little bit longer than Dogs’ explanation. We had two sealers and a helper for each sealer. You can’t see this in the picture because at the point the picture was taken, the helpers were doing other task. After the O2 absorbers were placed in the bag, the bag was then folder over. The sealer had to make three or four different clamps to seal across the entire bag. The sealer left an open on one end, and the helper pushed out the excess air, folder the bag into the bucket and then the sealer made one final clamp.

I would say each bucket took two to four minutes to completely seal. Once the bag was sealed, someone else moved the bucket to the vehicle of its owner. We had a few orders go on to pallets because their order was too large to fit into their personal vehicles. The large truck owner was kind enough to transport those orders of a few individual families to their homes.

Once we were finished with the initial order and every family made sure their order was correct, we divided up the remaining food. Each family received two or three additional buckets of food. So it is a good idea to order extra buckets and bags and have them with you.

I will admit, we were all pleasantly please with how quickly the process worked. We were most fortunate to have a nice facility and just about perfect weather for the process.

Cat

Sunrise from the Hampton Roads Bridge/Tunnel on the journey to the facility.

 

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 01:12pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

Awesome Job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 03:07pm

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    Bulk Food Pantry As A Buffer, Not Long Term Storage

I took a slightly different approach to my personal food storage as outlined below:

  • I organized my kitchen pantry using rectangular containers (for more efficient use of shelf space) and filled said containers with the our daily staples.
  • This gave me a good idea of what I actually use in the kitchen, and that provided the inventory list for my bulk storage pantry. (That way I’m not buying anything that I won’t use)
  • For the bulk pantry, I bought large, high quality rectangular containers with openable lids. I filled these bulk containers with more daily staples, and added dessicants and O2 absorbers in each container, but no mylar bags. 
  • When I run out of a particular staple in my kitchen pantry, I refill the container from the supplies in the bulk pantry.
  • I record any withdrawal from the bulk pantry, and replace it when I see the staple on sale again in the supermarket. To ensure that the new supplies are placed at the bottom of the bulk bin, I use an spare empty container as a temporary holding bin as I shift things around. 

Thus my bulk storage is just used as a buffer for my kitchen pantry, and is not just sitting there getting old as an insurance policy against some future crisis. The use of mylar bags precludes this flow in the usage of supplies. Though I did seal a few items in Mylar bags, the majority of my bulk pantry is easily accessible. The buffer approach also allows one to make use of periodic sales to save money.

Of course there are quite a bit of canned goods in both pantries, but I cycle these in the same way.

Below is a pic of the bulk pantry.

 

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 03:27pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

Morning Jeff –

You bring up a great point that I didn’t and a distinction needs to be made on the two approaches. 

Our approach is very long-term.  Our buckets are not intended for use anytime soon.  The shelf life of a properly packaged and sealed bucket is minimum 10-15 years.  We looked at it as an insurance policy.  Buy it, stick it on the shelf and hope you never have to use it, but be glad you have it in case you do.  We take a similar approach as far as pantry stocking and rotation – we don’t have the space for packaging the way you do, but all of our pantry items are in 1 of 3 categories

1.  Immediate use – the perishable things

2.  Longer shelf life items with an expiration date within the next year.  We do first in first out and rotate the stock by expiration.  All of these items are tracked on a spreadsheet.

3.  Long shelf life with an expiration date >1 year out.  This is our surge volume, as we use items in Cat 2, we will replace with items from Cat 3 that are close to a year.  Otherwise we will replace as needed with a periodic big Commissary run at the Naval Air Station.  Gotta love not paying taxes.

Great points – thanks for the different view. 

 

 

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 07:24pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

What a fantastic display of organization, planning and community.

Thank you for doing this and then taking the time to share this with everyone here.

I am really impressed and consider your efforts to be top-notch!

Can I ask why you considered iron sealing to be inferior? 

Once again, thank you.

Best,
Chris

 

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 07:28pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

Congratulations! What an impressing work of community and planning!!!

Yours Regina

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 07:47pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

[quote=cmartenson]

What a fantastic display of organization, planning and community.

Thank you for doing this and then taking the time to share this with everyone here.

I am really impressed and consider your efforts to be top-notch!

Can I ask why you considered iron sealing to be inferior? 

Once again, thank you.

Best,
Chris

[/quote]

Thanks Chris –

The key to the whole thing was that it really was a total group effort, and since we used the the model you gave us at Lowesville we started with a sound framework to put our project together.  Everybody had their strengths, everybody had great ideas and we just dialed in the process as we moved along.  It was kind of funny when after 5 hours, we looked around at each other standing in an empty warehouse bay and said “Are we really done?”  A lot of people thought it was going to take alot longer than it did. 

As far as the iron – it’s not so much that using an iron is inferior, it’s more of a sense that after using the clamshell sealer I can’t imagine it being any easier.  We had no issues with temperature control and the “squeeze” helped grip the bag.  We also didn’t have the 2 x 4 iron sealing template you described at Lowesville.

One of the biggest advantages of the clamshell sealer we found was once we had all but the last inch or two of the bag sealed, we would fold down the bag and squeeze out the last bit of air.  In many instances, we had a little triangle of the bag edge sticking up that would have been difficult to seal with the iron, but was easy to seal with the clamshell sealer.

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 07:50pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

Thanks for the rectangular bucket tip, Jeff . . . . We use the same organizational system, with various “levels” of storage, the “pantry” being the most accessible. 

 

Also, a tip for those who are concerned about ingesting toxins:  Mylar bags are loaded with phthalates, a component of plasticizers used to make plastics pliable.  Over time they “outgas”, so that the contents of mylar bags are coated with phthalates.  This effect is magnified by a vaccuum, which results when only O2 absorbers are used to remove oxygen from the container after sealing.  To avoid this, the containers can first be flushed with nitrogen gas (supplies available from your local welding supply shop).  This flushes out most of the oxygen.  The small amount of remaining oxygen, when sequestered by the oxygen absorber, is insufficient to create a vacuum, so phthalate outgassing is minimized.

Phthalates absorbed from food packaging are hormone disruptors, causing, over time, a wide variety of endocrine problems. The best documented of these effects include infertility in women, irregular menses, and hirsutism.  In short, they’re not part of the four food groups . . . . To mitigate this, we include DIM (diindolymethane), d-alphatocopheryl succinate, and phosphaticylcholine in our supplement program, as the combination is useful in detoxifying hormone mimics, such as phthalates.  For those who are adverse to taking supplements, diaphoresis (heavy sweating) is also useful in off-loading these toxins.

I’m not going to venture into the realm of TMI, but let’s just say that I can personally attest to the efficacy of these strategies. 

 

Hi, Chris;

I also prefer a sealer to an iron, as the shape of the contact surfaces (convex), its corrugated surface, and the leverage added from the scissors/fulcrum effect allow greater, more even pressure and control than the relatively bulky, flat surface of an iron.  Also, the compressibility of the sealer surface allows for more perfect contact than a completely rigid surface.  FWIW.

 

 

  • Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 07:56pm

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    Re: Successful Food Storage Day – 9 Familes, 4 Tons, 5 …

[quote=spectrabil]

Congratulations! What an impressing work of community and planning!!!

Yours Regina

[/quote]

Thanks Regina –

As you might guess, anything Cat gets involved with is going to be successful.  I just mostly did what she told me to do. 

But she wouldn’t let me drive the forklift………….

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